Star Wars Jedi: Survivor improves on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’s successful model by making Cal Kestis a more capable and resourceful Jedi Knight and by raising the stakes and the difficulty of the tasks he must overcome. Respawn’s most recent Star Wars game still features thrilling lightsaber combat and physics-defying platforming puzzle challenges among its strongest features, but this time around, Survivor also takes major risks with its narrative. While Cal’s mission brings him to unfamiliar parts of the cosmos, the journey that he takes inward is the most interesting. It’s the Jedi story I’ve been waiting for a long time, and Survivor is a very well-written story about conquering fear.
About five years have passed since the events of Fallen Order, and the Mantis crew has dispersed to pursue various objectives in a galaxy that is increasingly ruled by the Galactic Empire. Following a spectacular escape from Imperial forces, the main character Cal ends up on the planet Koboh, where he finds a High Republic Jedi protocol droid that holds the key to reaching Tanalorr, a fabled planet that is thought to be unreachable. Cal decides to get the Mantis crew back together for another intergalactic scavenger hunt after discovering a potential home that isn’t under the control of the Empire, but his plans are derailed by a former High Republic Jedi who wants Tanalorr for his own reasons after discovering it decades earlier and waiting for the right time.
Given what we know has happened between that age and the events of post-Revenge of the Sith, the High Republic is an intriguing period to connect Survivor’s story to. The High Republic is referred to in the comics as the height of the Jedi. And although that may be the truth, we also know that this era will end with the establishment of the Jedi Order under the leadership of Master Yoda, who once told a young Anakin Skywalker that “fear is the path to the Dark Side.” not fury. not sorrow. not any of the other feelings that a Jedi is expected to unhealthily repress. The Jedi learn from the High Republic’s events that fear is the gateway to evil and all other emotions are merely stops along the way.
As it explores the idea of terror and what it means for someone like Cal, a survivor of both a war and a genocidal attack on his people, to live with the constant shadow of fear, Survivor takes that idea and runs with it. Being a former member of the Jedi Order, Cal is afraid of falling short of its principles, which drives him to use unhealthy means to resist the Empire. In order to prevent painful rejection, he suppresses the developing sentiment he is experiencing for the people he loves.
While the core topic of Cal’s journey is fear and how it may alter you, the main adversaries of Survivor also gain from this focus, becoming mirrors for Cal to examine his behavior. The two main antagonists lack the depth of subtle character development I look for in a villain; ultimately, they are both selfish, albeit in different ways, which is what makes them evil. When compared to the horrifying and yet understandably sorrowful Second Sister from Fallen Order, it isn’t exactly intriguing. Survivor’s villains, however, serve as Cal’s opponents and spark his development. First, they make him realize that, if he isn’t careful, his reckless goal of overthrowing the Empire and getting to Tanalorr might result in his own conversion to the Dark Side. And second, realizing how crucial it is to be a new kind of Jedi in a galaxy that has changed.
The two most prominent examples in the current canon are Luke Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano, but we’ve seen variants of similar transitions in Jedi before. However, through Cal’s path, Respawn goes even more into what it means for a Jedi to face the uncertainties and questions that regular individuals in the Star Wars universe constantly face. Cal did not experience a typical childhood like Luke or a non-conventional mentor like Ahsoka as a young padawan. As a result, in contrast to the Jedi we have previously witnessed successfully balancing their inner light and darkness, his attempts to confront his fears of obsession and commitment are weaker and more vulnerable to outside influence.
In contrast to the typical Star Wars protagonist (aside from Anakin Skywalker, obviously), Cal frequently teeters toward the Dark Side in Survivor’s villainous situations. As a result, you never know where Cal’s moral compass will ultimately align until the game’s final battle. Because Survivor’s story offers Cal a lot to care about and isn’t afraid to see him lose it during critical narrative beats, that seesaw ride is so poignant. The purpose of Survivor’s plot is to discover how much the good guys are ready to sacrifice in order to succeed, not to watch them triumph.
The more immediate physical problems rely on a set of talents and abilities that Cal is already familiar with, even though these new personal challenges demand a lot of growth from Cal to overcome. Cal begins out with the lightsaber and traversal skills he acquired during Fallen Order since Survivor wisely avoids the trap of depowering its protagonist. As a seasoned Jedi who has been struggling for survival should be, Cal already feels adequately dominating against the early game’s weaker opponents. You have the ability to easily execute Force-driven parkour across bottomless holes and slice through uncomplicated Storm Troopers. Although Cal has these abilities, Survivor puts you in your place with a variety of difficult new enemy kinds following an exciting initial chapter. This motivates you to use your points carefully in the branching skill tree of Survivor to get new abilities.
Similar to Fallen Order, Cal’s lightsaber is the main weapon used in combat in Survivor. It can cut through an opponent’s defenses and parry their blows until their stamina runs out, allowing you to score some powerful blows. Compared to Fallen Order, it is considerably simpler to distinguish incoming assaults from fakeouts or preemptive wind-ups in Survivor, and Cal’s actions also seem more precise and rapid this time. This gives you more control during a fight and makes the game’s typically fast-paced fights seem more manageable. The glow of Cal’s lightsaber and the particle effects of an adversary’s weapon muddled the visual language of the parry function; today, when an enemy receives a hit, it seems more like your error and not like a stroke of bad luck.
Combat is as much about control and precise timing as it is about being strategically aggressive because Cal has his own endurance meter to consider. Each combat unfolds as a mental workout; once you get the hang of it, the experience develops in an exhilarating flow that is portrayed in stunning acoustic detail. The ping of each expertly deflected blaster fire, the buzz of Cal’s lightsaber, and the compressed surge of Force energy all add to the thrilling experience of playing as a Jedi Knight.
Cal is occasionally joined by other characters in the story, even though BD-1 is still your go-to buddy who keeps you healthy and unlocks doors. In certain of the story objectives, Merrin or the magic-wielding Bode accompany Cal to assist him in dealing with the more difficult battles. However, they are a welcome resource for crowd control in the hard-fought battles in the game’s second half, and their tag-team takedowns with Cal are all visually appealing. Neither of them really enhances the combat experience.
Cal gains the Blaster and Crossguard lightsaber stances in Survivor to match the premise that he is now older and more proficient. While the latter deals in slow but powerful strikes, the former gives Cal a ranged fighting style. Both have their advantages, but Blaster moves far more smoothly and quickly than the other three kinds. With the slower Crossguard method, it is more difficult for Cal to maneuver through a group of foes, block blaster shots, and rapidly strike his opponent when their guard drops.
Only two lightsaber postures can be equipped at once in Survivor, and switching between them necessitates stopping at a checkpoint near a meditation circle. This constraint can be annoying at times because it discourages experimentation by forcing you to use only the two play styles you end up using the most. Additionally, there isn’t much opportunity to experiment with what would be intriguing new skills and strategies because you only get one free ability respec per playing. After using the freebie, you can change your spec, but each time you do so, one of your skill points must be forfeited.
Though I originally found this to be restrictive, I eventually learned to value how the restriction made me adjust where I did spend my skill points, particularly when it came to lightsaber positions. You can create your own interpretation of Cal’s fighting style because each has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. You pick where Cal lacks—crowd control, for instance, or perhaps all-out attack power—and then come up with inventive ways to make up for that shortcoming. I chose to concentrate on the versatile Single stance and the range-focused Blaster stance, for example, which turned Cal into a master of one-on-one combat. However, I felt pain when the game hurled a dozen attackers at me at once during battle situations. In those situations, I relied on Cal’s use of the Force to hold off some enemies long enough for me to avoid being overpowered. I had the impression that I could create my own special Cal, one who specialized in the entertaining hit-and-run fighting style that ultimately got me to the credits.
In Survivor, there are also more Force puzzles and platforming difficulties. Similar to battle, both feel better in Survivor than in Fallen Order since Cal now automatically clings onto climbable surfaces, and because there are a good number of attainable shortcuts, you won’t likely be too far behind if you unintentionally miss a jump in the middle of an action scene. Additionally, Survivor includes a useful hint system. More importantly, it respects your intelligence by only surfacing when you appear to be stuck or leave the game idle in the middle of a puzzle. Even then, the game will ask you if you’d want a hint before providing one, similar to Fallen Order, which is a nice amount of restraint. Only twice did it provide me hints, both times in the middle of puzzles where I was completely stumped as to where to go or what to do. I’m not sure how Survivor recognized which puzzles I would take the time to solve and which I would need a hint for immediately, but it did.
When all of Survivor’s components—the plot, the combat, and the puzzle platforming—come together with frantic momentum in a way that is distinctly Star Wars, the game is at its most engaging. One of the game’s most memorable moments, a boss battle that occurs around the halfway point, best illustrates this. The scene includes combat, platforming, and a significant narrative payoff in which Cal and Merrin team up to destroy an Imperial mining tool. They do this by combining Jedi skills and Nightsister magick in a tense, cinematic encounter that will put your reflexes to the test while Survivor’s absolutely banging soundtrack is swelling in your ears. The two companions finally defeat the device in one of the finest finale actions I’ve seen in any Star Wars project. You can tell that the developers behind this game is aware of how fantastic Star Wars can be since I actually got up from my couch and cheered when it happened.
Another of Survivor’s significant new features—a hub-like place that Cal can frequent—best illustrates the game’s consideration for peaceful moments. On Koboh, Cal can go to a cantina that is crowded with NPCs that you’ve saved on your galactic travels. Some of these characters serve as merchants, offering Cal cosmetics or supplementary game features. With music or a rooftop garden, other people help Cal enliven the cantina. The most useful of them serve as quest-givers by directing Cal to the puzzle boxes that represent High Republic vaults, bounty hunter mini-bosses, or additional recruitable NPCs. Even if the characters themselves are, for the most part, narratively dull and uninteresting to interact with, the rewards they sell and the missions they give you to perform are frequently enjoyable. The Haxion Brood bounty hunters who are seeking Cal after he escaped their grasp in Fallen Order are easy to locate thanks to Caij Vanda, who is my favorite character. Oftentimes, these bounty hunters are quick combatants equipped with jetpacks, blasters, deployable shields, and a variety of other weapons and equipment that are perfect for overwhelming a Force user. Finding them results in some incredibly intense duels, and Caij rewards Cal for finding them with some of the best in-game items.
Finally, Survivor’s technical performance is a drawback that needs to be acknowledged. While playing on an Xbox Series X, I frequently encountered sporadic crashes, which were all awkwardly timed to occur during cutscenes before the game had a chance to autosave. One unfortunate (and extremely disappointing) instance saw the game crash right before the cinematic that followed a particularly difficult multiple-phase boss battle that I had eventually defeated after several failed attempts. My progress was lost as a result of the accident, and I had to fight the monster a total of 12 times before I finally defeated him. This victory felt much hollower than it did the first time. A coworker on the PlayStation 5 mentioned some sporadic stuttering, screen tearing, and crashing as well. The PC version also has a number of technical issues with in-game presentation, speed, and hardware optimization.
Survivor improves upon Fallen Order in a number of significant ways, tightening up the combat mechanics, broadening the selection of lightsaber styles, reducing the frustration of platforming and puzzles, and delving into less-popular Star Wars lore to tell a fantastic tale about a Jedi trying to subdue an oppressive evil at all costs and realizing that you can’t just fight for good—you have to fight for good in the right way. It’s an excellent Star Wars game that delves deeply into the struggles faced by a Jedi Knight as they start their path toward Master status.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Rating